25. Continuous improvement through conversation
Aside from humor, yet enabled by it, the root of continuous improvement is conversation. When it is said that humans are social beings, what is really being said is that humans exist in conversation. Even when we are alone, we are in conversation with ourselves. There is always an ongoing dialogue in the mind. We are what we think and we think in the form of conversation.
Conversation is the mode through which ideas are exchanged. It can take many forms whether through the arts, formal education, social settings, workplace interactions - in all cases I view conversation as an overarching concept that captures what it is to be human.
When in continuous conversation with our friends, colleagues, and workmates we have the opportunity of continuous improvement. Conversation is the confrontation with alternative points of view. Alternate ways of thinking and perceiving things is a source of growth and change. Ongoing conversation exposes each participant to new ways of being and as such delivers an opportunity for continuous improvement.
The forms of conversation that we conduct in our workplace can honor the virtue of continuous improvement. Continually improving one's self and one's team results in a more efficient and beneficent team function. This translates into better flow over time.
The team that converses well together and honors the importance of it also honors the benefits that conversation imparts in the form of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement improves the flow of goodwill through a system.
Early in the history of Solspace, we took on a project that was quite large and intricate. It was one of the largest and most complex we had ever attempted. We learned quickly that we had not developed the team skills to cope with the complexity we faced. Without a clear solution to the situation, we just vowed to meet early each morning online using an instant messaging program. We basically vowed to engage in conversation. This was opportune. We found quickly that just committing to connect every day to continue an ongoing conversation enabled the solution to our problem. Each morning we worked through one complex client issue after another. We made decisions in conversation and we reworked those decisions, continually improving them and our conversation at the same time. To this day we use this conversational method to approach complex client problems and keep projects moving steadily forward. At its root, our continuous conversation supports continuous improvement and progress. A project must be monitored continuously if it is to move to completion. The commitment to conversation makes this possible.